Venezuelan authorities deny Yanomami massacre

Venezuelan officials investigating a reported mass killing of Yanomami indigenous people say the have found no evidence of the attack. Minister of Indigenous Peoples Nicia Maldonado said a team travelled to the area by helicopter and failed to locate the bodies witnesses had described finding. “No evidence of any death was found,” Maldonado said on state TV. “There is no evidence of murder or fire in either houses or shabonos [communal dwellings] in the communities where the alleged crime took place.” Gen. José Eliecer Pinto of the National Guard told Ultimas Noticias newspaper that he had visited four indigenous communities along with other officials and that “everything is fine there.” Officials expressed skepticism at claims that outlaw gold miners came across the border from Brazil to attack the settlemet from the air by helicopter.  “It would be extremely hard to do,” said Gen. Rafael Zambrano, commander of the Venezuelan army unit responsible for the region.

But indigenous rights advocates say Venezuelan officials may have failed to find the community in question, which is in a remote jungle location. Liborio Guarulla, governor of Amazonas state, accused Caracas of carrying out a bad-faith investigation, “mobilizing resources just to silence the matter.” Advocates for the Yanomami say their demand for an investigation is unusual because their traditions discourage discussion of the dead. “It’s a measure of how serious the problem is that they are making these allegations,” said Marcos Wesley de Oliveira of Brazilian advocacy group Instituto Socioambiental.  (Reuters, El Universal, Caracas, Sept. 3; BBC News, Sept. 2)